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With words of high praise from Republicans and Democrats, the nation's leaders on Wednesday dedicated a statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks — a statue that now stands in the U.S. Capitol "where many fought to prevent a day like this," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
President Obama said of Parks that she was "a seamstress slight in stature but mighty in courage" who lived a life "of dignity and grace."
She "helped change America and change the world," Obama said of the African-American woman who in 1955 refused to move to the back of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala., and with that simple act encouraged others to stand up against racial prejudice.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised Parks' "quiet strength, pride and dignity." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said she is a "national hero." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said those who pass by her statue can "look up and draw strength from [her] stillness."
The president ended his remarks by saying "we do well by placing a statue of her here. ... We can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and [her] courage born of conviction."
According to Boehner's office, this is the first statue of an African-American woman to be placed in the Capitol as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection.
President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2005 that directed Congress to add a statue of Parks to the Capitol's collection.
Parks, who would have turned 100 this month, died in 2005.